Big Biz Pays Chamber of Commerce to Fight Its Battles

Handful of anonymous corporate donors account for bulk of funding
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 22, 2010 5:37 AM CDT
Big Biz Pays Chamber of Commerce to Fight Its Battles
The United States Chamber of Commerce is spending $75 million on midterm election ads.   (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

The foreign money that's been funneling into the Chamber of Commerce looks like small potatoes in light of a new analysis from the New York Times that found nearly half of the Chamber's $140 million in 2008 contributions came from 45 anonymous corporate donors who step up the spending when their interests are at stake. The Times pieced together tax filings and public records to strip away some of that anonymity; among its findings: Prudential Financial kicked in $2 million as the Chamber fought financial regulation, and Dow Chemical coughed up $1.7 million as the group fought moves to tighten security at chemical facilities.

Other big-money donors have included Goldman Sachs, Chevron Texaco, and News Corp. The Chamber—which boasts of representing some 3 million businesses and 300,000 members—denies that donors have any say in which campaigns their cash is spent on, but critics say smaller members are being sidelined as the group becomes more partisan and aggressive. "When you become a mouthpiece for a specific agenda item for one business or group of businesses, you better be damn careful you are not being manipulated,” a former chairman of the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce says. “And they are getting close to that, if not over that edge.” (More US Chamber of Commerce stories.)

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